Page last updated at 13:14 GMT, Thursday, 3 September 2009 14:14 UK

At a glance - legislative programme

By Andrew Black
Political reporter, BBC Scotland news website

A look at the full list of bills announced in the Scottish Government's draft legislative programme:

Budget Bill

The government's most important piece of legislation, setting out overall spending priorities for the year ahead and pushing the SNP's main goal of economic recovery and growth. Unless this bill is passed, the government of the day cannot function.

In a first, the Scottish Government's last Budget Bill was defeated in parliament.

The event prompted a lot of talk about whether the SNP administration would have to resign, but after a few trade-offs with opposition parties, the spending plans were passed by parliament on the second go.

Scottish Governments get their budget cash from the UK Treasury, always a sore point with the SNP, which has hit out at the Scottish Parliament's lack of borrowing powers and limited discretion on taxation.

Referendum Bill

Scottish independence is the driving force of the SNP, and this bill sets out the scope and mechanics of "a fair and democratic referendum" on independence, and information on the costs.

The government has said it could be a multi-option referendum - and this could include the tax changes proposed by the recent Calman Commission review of Scottish devolution.

But there is still not enough support in parliament to pass the bill for a referendum on independence - an issue which Alex Salmond says must be put to the people of Scotland.

Alcohol Bill

You will often hear Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon quote the figure of £2.25bn - the annual cost of Scotland's alcohol problem in "extra services and lost productivity".

Scottish ministers say radical action is needed, and want to introduce minimum alcohol pricing to stop drink being sold at "pocket-money prices".

There has been a fair degree of opposition to this move, although the UK's chief medical officers have since voiced support.

The bill would also ban "irresponsible" retail promotions, ensure smaller measures of wine are available in pubs, and would put a duty on licensing boards to consider raising the minimum age for buying drink to 21 in part or all of their area.

It would also create the power to introduce a "social responsibility fee" for some retailers.

Forth Crossing Bill

The new Forth road bridge, which may cost up to £2.3bn, is probably the biggest single infrastructure project Scotland will ever commission.

The existing crossing linking Edinburgh and Fife, now 45-years-old, has serious deterioration problems and could be subject to weight restrictions on freight traffic if nothing is done.

The bridge is hugely important to Scotland's economy - the government says economic output could fall by about £1bn, and see a loss of about 3,200 jobs without an alternative crossing.

The Scottish Government is also involved in a long-running dispute with UK ministers a bid to borrow cash from future budgets to pay for it was turned down. SNP ministers insist, though, the new crossing will be built and financed regardless.

Housing Bill

Council house shortages are a big problem in Scotland - a number of local authorities have suspended the right to buy policy.

This bill would end the right to buy for all new-supply social housing, a policy which aims to work alongside the government's three-year £1.5bn house-building plan.

The bill may also include provisions on private housing to assist local authorities to enforce existing legislation more effectively.

Children's Hearing Bill

Plans to reform the government's unique but decades-old Children's Hearings system would involve creating a new national body - the Scottish Children's Hearings Tribunal, to oversee the operation.

This bill has now been delayed following criticism - some current Children's Panel members have threatened to resign over the proposals.

Opposition parties say this shows the reforms have been poorly thought out, while ministers argue that taking extra time to get the changes right is vital for a system which has a crucial role in supporting vulnerable youngsters.

Patients' Rights Bill

This one, which dates back to the SNP's 2007 election campaign, would give a 12-week waiting time guarantee for in-patients and those waiting to be treated as day-cases.

This would apply from "agreement to treatment" to the start of that treatment, and the bill would also set up "patients' rights officers" for health board areas.

But there would also be "better clarity" about the responsibilities of patients - such as keeping appointments.

The bill has its critics though - former Scottish Lib Dem leader Nicol Stephen claimed it could "create a lawyer by every bedside".

Crofting Reform Bill

This is seen as a key piece of legislation to build on the prosperity of Scotland's rural and island communities, many of which have been hit by population downturns in recent times.

Declining levels of activity, absenteeism and neglect are all continuing problems for crofters, say ministers, and there is a consensus that action needs to be taken to toughen existing rules requiring crofters to live on or near the croft and work the land.

Such a plan has drawn criticism from Western Isles Council and the Scottish Crofting Foundation.

Debt and Family Homes Bill

This bill would put in place a system striking "the right balance" between the interests of creditors and debtors.

It would follow a review of what could be done to ensure people made bankrupt were not made homeless unnecessarily.

Debtor Protection Bill

People facing repossession or bankruptcy would get increased protection under this piece of legislation.

All repossession cases would involve court proceedings, unless a borrower voluntarily surrenders possession.

Other reforms include a requirement for lenders to show in court that they have taken "reasonable steps" to avoid repossession.

Wildlife and Environment Bill

This sets out wide-ranging proposals, including modernisation and deregulation of laws relating to game, some dating back to 19th Century.

Other measures include better deer management, a "more robust framework" on the keeping and release of non-native species, tackling "anomalies" in badger protection legislation, and a new accreditation scheme for those who set snares.

It would also include changes to the technical operation of sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs).

Historic Environment (Amendment) Bill

It would update existing legislation.

Its provisions include a new power enabling ministers to declare a building immune from listing for five years, and better partnership between councils and developers.

Legal Services Bill

It aims to remove "outdated restrictions", allowing solicitors to secure external investment.

It would remove curbs on solicitors entering business relationships with non-solicitors and create a "robust regulatory framework".



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SEE ALSO
SNP outlines plans for referendum
03 Sep 09 |  Scotland
Referendum 'could look at powers'
16 Jun 09 |  Scotland
MSPs to debate independence bill
29 Aug 09 |  Scotland
Minimum pricing on alcohol urged
22 Jun 09 |  Scotland
SNP outlines independence plans
14 Aug 07 |  Scotland
'Bring on' referendum - Alexander
04 May 08 |  Scotland

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